Friday, March 21, 2014

Activity: Quote book

This isn't going to be your average quote book where a child cuts out quote from magazines. You and your child are going to create the book from the funny things you say. In college, we had quote boards to capture all of those priceless things we said. But instead of putting it on a poster board on the wall of the kitchen, you can make a book, diary, keepsake, etc.

All you really need is something sturdy to write the quotes in. I would suggest buying a small hardbound journal, or a small hardbound pocket book, rather than just a standard notebook. Your decision to buy a certain product should be made based on WHO will be keeping the book, and their age. For example, if your 6 year old is going to walk around with it, a hardbound book might be fine. But if I let my 2 year old have control, it would be better for me a buy a 50 cent spiral bound notebook. The choice is up to you.

As a mother/parent, this would also be fun for YOU to do, so that you can keep track of all the funny things that kids say. My niece used to say  "RORRY" before she could say sorry, and I still love to think about it even though it's been years since she said it. My daughter says "DOODLES" instead of noodles, and her cousin used to call noodles "KITTIES" (I have no idea why). My daughter has also been trying to say "UH OH, SPAGHETTI-OH", but says "UH-OH CEREAL" instead. It's things like that that may be hard to remember in 20 years when your kids are having their own children. I know that I still love to have my mom tell me stories about when I was a kid. My infamous funny saying that still gives me and my family giggles is "Spaghetti-OHs!" In context, I didn't realize until I was in my 20's that Spaghetti-ohs are spaghetti in the shape of ohs. Yeah, I know. Silly me.

Anyway, if you need some fun artsy ideas, or just ideas of quotes for your book (depending on if you make it family quotes, or just quotes you like) check out

Have any of you done this before? Did your kids help you?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Activity: Big Ears

When I first found this activity, all I could think about what PSAT's, SAT's, ACT's, and any other kind of standardized test that you can think of. You know, when they have you read a story and the you have to correctly identify the point of the story, and various aspects about it? Yeah... I was never did excell at those kinds of tests, which is interesting because I love to read. But regardless of the tests, this activity is still fun for kids, and could actually make a great party game.

What you are going to do is tell a story with lots of descriptive words. If you don't have a story like this on hand, here is how to write one. If doing it for a birthday party, you could write a story about the birthday kid and do it as one of your games.

Before you begin the story, have the child or children clothes their eyes and focus really hard on listening (use their big ears!). Then tell the story, remind the kids to listen for descriptive words (you may want to explain what a descriptive word is at the start of the activity). Once the story is over, you can do a number of things.

1. Have the kids write down the answers to your questions
2. Draw pictures of the objects that they remember (pink dress, blue eyes, etc)
3. Have the kids try to retell the story (you can have one kid do this, or have kids take turns after a few sentences each)
4. Have costumes and things on hand to act out the story.
5. Have coloring pages for the kids to color correctly (again, pink dress, blue eyes, etc)
6. Whatever else you can think of.

That's about it! I would advise keeping the stories fairly short depending on the age and skill level of your kids. And the more you do it, the more you can add to the stories. You could even grab some library books and then add more descriptive words if you like. OOH! Or how about 

Have you done any thing like this? Do you have a descriptive story to share or recommend?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Activity: Half Day

This is an activity that can EASILY be used for Half-birthdays, Half-way though the school year, Half-way through summer, etc. All you need to do is pick a half day (I will be using a half birthday as an example), and start getting creative.

Picture courtesy of
For a half birthday, sing half a birthday song, bake only half a cake, and use only half the normal amount of candles.

You could also have lessons on fractions (what is half of 4?), sharing (if you have 1 apple but 2 people, how can we share?), Dates (using the calendar to find out what their half birthday is), Math (how do I divide a recipe in half), etc. So really the possibilities are endless.

Have you ever done a "half" day? What ideas, pictures, advice can you share?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Activity: Indoor Drive-in Movie

This activity has a lot of different components that can make it really fun. Here's a super brief summary of what the activity is.

You are going to create your own drive in movie theater, complete with box "cars". To make the box cars, you first need boxes, preferable big enough for a kid to sit in. If you have long boxes, you could double up kids as well. Once you have a box for each kid, get out the crayons, makers, colored paper, newspaper, paint, etc. and let the kids decorate how they want to. If the weather is nice enough, you may want them to paint while on the lawn, or at least put a large plastic table cloth down on whatever surface you choose. You can help the children draw windows, doors, lights, steering wheel, etc.

Once the cars are drying (if you used glue or paint), you may want to turn on some music for a dance party, have the kids help make cookies, or blend up some fun smoothies or fruit drinks to have during the movie.

And now the next part is where the difficulty lies. What movie to watch is a difficult choice for myself to make alone, and when you factor in the opinions of a number of kids, it can be even more difficult. So my suggestion is to choose the movie before hand, preferably either one that was just released on DVD or an old one that likely no one has seen before. Here are some of my favorite suggestions for girls and boys:

Sleepover (Alexa Vega)
Wild Hearts Can't be Broken (Gabriel Anwar)
Princess Bride (Cary Elwes)
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Alexis Bledel, America Ferrara, and Amber Tamblyn)
Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter)
Frozen (Idina Menzel)

Princess Bride (Cary Elwes)
Harry Potter (probably the earlier ones) (Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliff, and Rupert Grint)
Goonies (Sean Aston)
Toy Story (Tim Allen and Tom Hanks)
Hook (Robin Williams)
Hugo (Asa Butterfield)
Sandlot (Tom Guiry)

There are of course TONS of other movies out there you could allow your kids to watch. I tried to list awesome ones that weren't too scary, because that might keep the kids awake all night. Do you have any other movie suggestions? Or picture of the cars you decorated?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Snack: Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

I found this great website recently called And on it, I found a quick and easy, AND gluten free peanut butter cookies. I can't wait to try these! Here is what you need:

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix together the ingredients. Set aside in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Then take a fork, dip it into sugar, and press onto each ball dough to get the classic "lines" or "criss crosses". Next, put the cookies in the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before eating.

For more ideas and recipes, check out these links:

Peanut Butter Energy Balls (LINK)
Green Smoothie (LINK)
Let's Make Pizza! (LINK)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Friday, February 28, 2014

Family Newsletter!

I am super excited to do this one with my daughter and husband. It's kind of like sending out Christmas letters, but could include a lot more. You could essentially use any program from Word, to Open Office, or an actual Newsletter construction program.

Here are a few suggestions (I have not tried them personally, so use discretion when you choose one)

Word (Click this link for instructions)
Publisher (LINK)
Word Draw (LINK)
Smile Templates (LINK)

And now here's the hard part. You may be like me and want to share your news with family and friends all the time, in newsletter form, because somehow, it makes you feel important. Well I'm going to put the kabash on that idea right away! Who has time to write newsletters constantly? May I suggest that you stick to Easter  and Christmas? Or perhaps for each person's birthday? (This is an EXCELLENT way to start a family history book, btw). The choice is yours, but from personal experience, I would say to be careful not to take on too much. It's easier to start small, and do more newsletters later than to attempt a lot all at once. And now for the second hardest thing. Choosing what to include....

Choosing what to include will have a large bias depending on how many people you have in your family. If you and your husband have 5 kids, you might want to forgo drawings by the kids, whereas if you have one child, you will likely have space to include it. The choice is yours, but here are some ideas.

Recent pictures (any snapshot is fine)
Upcoming dates of importance (Dance Recitals, Graduation, Birthday Party, etc)
Current Address and Phone number (especially important if you recently moved like we did)
Family News (Graduations, births, etc)
Special successes (Aced a test, job promotion, etc)
New house (Or apartment, condo, garden, etc)
Family History/Genealogy story
Stories written by the kids
Pictures drawn by the kids
Family Vacation Summary (with pictures)
Favorites (Family Recipe, Game, Book, Activity, etc. You could also do this for birthday newsletters)

The options are limitless. And if you feel overwhelmed, just think what you would tell someone that you hadn't seen in years, and you were catching up over lunch. Start with that, and build from there.

Good luck with everything! Don't worry about it being perfect, especially in the beginning. My daughter's birthday is coming up, so I'm going to make a newsletter for her to send to family and close friends. What kind of newsletter would you try?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A special gift to the new addition

At some point, you may be wondering how to help your first child adjust to the idea of a new child coming along the way, or getting the older to do something nice for the younger. Here is an idea that will allow you to spend special time with the older child, while still doing something for the younger child. Let's take a 5 year old and a 2 year old for an example.

The point of this activity is to give the younger child a special ABC book that was made by the older child.

Buy a blank notebook for the 5 year old. Have an adult write each letter of the alphabet (one letter per page, or every 2 pages). Then, with the help of the 5 year old, think about what things start with each letter. For example, A is for apple, ape, antelope, avocado, etc.  You could also draw family members like Amy, or Aunt Agatha, or whatever it may be. Then draw the pictures on the correct page with the corresponding letters. When finished, have the 5 year old show the book to the 2 year old, and let them learn and study together. Your 5 year old will be proud of the book they made, and it will bring the two children together in a fun and learning environment.

You could also skip buying the notebook, and instead use large blank note cards, and then laminate (or use contact paper) them, whole punch them, and tie the cards together with ribbon or yarn.

Pennies for your thoughts!

Here is a simple little activity to help your children learn how to do word problems, and how to work with money. Here's how it works:

Simply search your purse for loose change (pennies would be preferred). Then create a word problem such as "if I give you 5 pennies, and you give 2 back to me, how many pennies do you have left?"

You could also get more complex and say "Max works for 3 days. He earns 5 pennies on the first day, 3 pennies on the second day, and 8 pennies on the third day. How much money did Max have after 3 days? After two days?"

Easy as that! All it takes is a little time and creativity, and only a temporary use of money.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Activity: All About Me

This is a fun activity that can help the children figure out their likes and dislikes, do a craft project that is centered around them, and learn to take the initiative with only a little help from an adult (in the form of cutting and gluing).

Here is what you need:

Magazines (particularly kids ones)
Old Catalogs (kid or toy centered)
Old books
Family pictures
Colored paper

Now you can let the children cut out the things that they like and glue them to pieces of paper. These papers will become a book, so you may want to cut them in half or in quarters first. As it looks like the kids are starting to finish up, serve some sort of healthy snack (you can find ideas here and here) and allow the glue to finish drying. once dry, staple the pages together and you have a book all about what your child likes and/or dislikes. As a genealogist, I think it would be awesome to do with every year close to the child's birthday. But of course what I wish I could do and what I actually do don't always seem to match up, but we shall see.

What do you think? Have you tried anything like this?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Activity: Going on a WORD picnic

This activity is an excellent option for those that want to help their kids learn vocabulary, rhyming, sounding, etc., without putting too much pressure on them. And the best part is that all you need to do is set up a picnic....

Spread out the blanket, put the food in a basket or on trays, and get ready to be creative. If you pull a sandwich out of the basket, have your child think of another word that starts with the same sound as sandwich. The child will need to realize that sandwich starts with an S sound, and then think of another word that begins with S. You could also do a rhyming variation and pull out BREAD, and have your child think of a rhyme (dread, bed, dead, Fred, read, red, etc).

An activity like this could also be used outdoors in the summer to keep ideas fresh in the children's minds, even though they aren't in school. So what do you think? Have you played a game like this? How did it go?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Activity: (SAFE) High Wire Circus Act

I know that the name sounds confusing. A safe activity on a high wire for kids? Trust me. The kids won't even get off the ground but they will still be able to practice their coordination and balance.  Here's how it works:

You will need:

Masking Tape (or chalk if doing it outside)
Adequate clean space

All you need to do is make a "high wire" or "tight rope" using the tape or chalk by making a straight line on the carpet/sidewalk. For the younger kids, they will have fun just trying to walk in a straight line without falling over. You will likely need to demonstrate how to do this, since they might not be consciously doing it yet. And don't forget to teach them to put their hands out to the sides!

Preschoolers could even try to walk backwards, or on their tip toes, or both! And if your child is particularly acrobatic, try and have them do a hand stand, and then "walk" along the line.

That's all there is to this activity. Do you have any other variations to try?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Activity: I Spy Variations

I spy with my little eyes something... Red! Blue? Green? Plaid?

Instead of playing the regular eye spy where you spy colors, how about trying something else like this...:

I spy with my little eye something that is a triangle....
I spy with my little eye something dark....
I spy with my little eye something that moves....
I spy with my little eye an animal....

And if you are at a crowded place like a McDonald's Play Place, the mall, etc. try some of these:

I spy with my little eye someone who is dancing....
I spy... someone who is sleeping....
I spy... someone talking on their cell phone....

In any case, you can be as creative as you want with this game. You could even do it between rain showers when the clouds are all puffy. Whichever way you do it, have fun!

Have you done a game like this? What variations did you do?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Activity: Letter of the day

This activity is very simple and can be done any way you like. Simple choose a letter (Let's start at the very's a very good place to start....), and focus on that letter throughout the day. You could also choose to focus on a number instead. As an example, let's choose the letter A.

1. Eat apples, avocados, artichokes, etc. for a snack.
2. Read books about Johnny Appleseed, Anne of Green Gables, Alice in Wonderland, etc.
3. Be an Acrobat for the day
4. Eat at Arby's for dinner
5. Learn about Anteaters, aardvarks, etc. at your local zoo
6. As you drive around town, look for the letter A on different signs or restaurants.
7. Look for the letter A at the grocery store
8. Make A shaped pancakes or biscuits, and drink apple juice with dinner.
9. Learn about Airplanes and what makes them fly. If possible, find an airplane graveyard or somewhere close to the airport where you can watch planes take off and land.
10. And any other activities you can think of beginning with the letter of the day.

For more alphabet ideas, check out this website that I found by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Activity: Music and Movement

Kids love music. They also love to move and wiggle, and best of all, dance! And of course it is easier to dance along with music, than without music. Here are some fun variations that you can do, instead of just normal dancing.

1. If you have a full length mirror, bring it out to where the dancing is, and let your child watch themselves dance. They will love making the person that they see move, even if they don't quite understand that it is themselves yet.

2. When I was a kid, we had a cassette tape (remember those?) that had all sorts of music activities on them. It would tell us to dance like an elephant, very slow and deliberate, and there was even a song that was very fast and we would run around in circles until we fell to the floor laughing. Try something like playing "Flight of the Bumble Bee" and have you kids pretend to be Bumble Bees. Better yet, turn on Fantasia (the original) or Fantasia 2000 and have the kids dance along with the animals/people/etc. that they see. The whale song should be interesting - better get the camera out ahead of time!

3. Dress up like princesses, gypsies, belly dancers, etc. and find some music fit to dance to!

As always, there's really no limit to what you can do, imagine, or create. What type of dancing/movement activities have you done with your children?

Activity: Cardboard cooking

I haven't actually done this yet, but it is definitely on my to do list. And it would work perfectly with all of Mia's pots and pans and things she got for Christmas. Plus, it will save you $200 or more dollars on buying the same thing at ToysRUs. Here's how it works:

You will need a bunch of cardboard boxes, duct tape, markers, and anything else you want to do to be creative. Here are some pictures to help you with your construction.

You can actually make things as simple or complex as you want. The white oven is one of the more simple, yet still awesome ones.

This brown one is slightly more complex, but still fairly easy.

Again, more complex than the first two, but still looking good!
This one is my favorite. I didn't make it, and don't know if I will ever be creative enough to replicate it, but I sure can enjoy looking at the picture!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Activity: I want to be like Mommy!

I've noticed that as Mia gets closer to turning 2, she wants to be mommy's helper more and more. That means that I'm constantly on the lookout for things she can do to help and feel "big and strong". If any of you are experiencing the same thing, you might find some good ideas on the following list:

Help pick up items at the grocery store and put them in the cart
Wipe up spills (Especially their own - this will help them learn responsibility)
Tear up lettuce, spinach, etc. for salad
Clean up toys (Mia has a little space on a shelf where she knows her books go, but she doesn't yet put them there on her own. We have to remind her.)
Water the garden (Mia's loved this since she was 15 months old!)
Help make cookies (Have them add the flour, chocolate chips, oats etc. - Even if they are really young, let them help with the poring)
Let them work along side you (Use a play tool set if Daddy is working with tools, give them their own gardening tools (play ones), etc.)
Sorting the laundry (Have your child find all of the socks, etc.)

I know that there are a lot of other great ideas out there. Just be sure to complement your child for trying, even when they make mistakes. And make sure that the activity is more about fun than about doing it perfectly.

What activities do you let your child help with?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Make It Yourself: Finger Paint

Here are multiple different ways to make your own finger paint:

Cornstarch - Water - Glycerine
Mix 1/2 cup of cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold water until there are no lumps. Cook over low heat until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat and then add another 1/2 cup cold water and 1 TBSP of glycerine. Mix together and then add food coloring if you want. That's all it takes!

Cornstarch-Gelatin (You will need 2 small pots and one bowl to make this recipe)
In the first pot, mix 1/2 cup of cornstarch with 3/4 cup of cold water to a smooth paste in a saucepan. In a separate bowl, mix together 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin with 1/4 cup of water. In the second pot, bring  2 cups of water to a boil. once the water is boiling, add it to the first pot and stir as your pour. Bring it to a boil again, and the mixture is clear. Remove from the heat and add the gelatin mixture (from the bowl). Then just add food coloring if you want to, and let it cool!

Cornstarch - Basic
Mix together a 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 1/2 TBSP sugar, and 1 cup cold water in a pot. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture starts out thin, but will thicken as it cooks. After it thickens, remove from heat and let it cool. Once it's cool, divide into small containers and add a few drops of food coloring. Now you are ready to paint!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Activity: Cardboard Kazoo

I'm super excited to try this one. Anything that kids Mia a new musical instrument without spending tons of money is awesome in my book! This one is super easy to do, too.

You will need:
Toilet Paper tubes (I always save these regardless of what activity we are planning to do. That way they will always be available when I need them).
Wax paper
Rubber Bands
Hole punch

Cut the wax paper into a circle about 5 inches in diameter. Then attach it to the type with the rubber band. By the opposite opening, punch a hole (see video for clarification). Then you get to start playing!

What other musical instrument can you make with items from around the house? Do you have a link for a video or instructions?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Activity: Indoor Bowling

Here's a great activity if your family drinks a lot of soda from either 2 liter bottles, or regular cans. And it's probably one of the simplest activities you will ever do.

All you need is a soft ball (a ball that is soft, not a soft ball like a baseball), and EMPTY soda bottles or cans.

Now set up the cans/bottles to be like bowling pins, and voila! You are ready to start bowling! I find that the best place to do it is in a long hallway, since the walls kind of act like "bumpers" for bumper bowling. This helps the smaller kids do better and enjoy it more when playing with big kids. Here's a few ideas if you want to "jazz" up the "pins". And of course the kids would have lots of fun doing this too, and it would make the activity longer! Who doesn't love that?

Perfect for Halloween!

What a great way to keep patriotism in your home even when it's cold outside!

In case you don't know, these are supposed to be Minions from Despicable Me, and Despicable Me 2.

Snowmen, just in time for Christmas!

Another twist you can do is to use a small pumpkin instead of a ball. It makes the game a lot more difficult since the pumpkin doesn't roll straight at all.

Have you done this before? how did it go? Did you take any pictures?

Activity: Familiar Faces

Not really living close to my side of family, I've been trying to figure out a way for Mia to remember who certain people are, and I think I finally found one. What you need to do is make a picture book of any family or friends that call your house or cell regularly. You can buy little photo albums for a dollar at the dollar store, and then just slide in the pictures. This when, when someone calls, you can show the picture to your little one, and they will be able to match a face with a voice. Of course Skype helps this along too, but we're not always by the computer, or able to sit down for a long conversation. You can also use the pictures to practice for a family reunion (so your kids won't be afraid of the people that are excited to see them, and might hug them), preschool, playgroup, etc.And since children like things to be predictable, this idea is a great way to prepare a shy child for what is coming in the future that will be new to them.

Have you done something like this? Did it help? What event/task/etc did you use it for?

Snack Time: Let's make pizza!

I don't know about you, but I always seem to have leftover pasta/pizza sauce after making pizza/spaghetti, and I don't know what to do with it. So it sits in my fridge, eventually gets moldy, and I throw it out. Very disappointing, and a waste of money. So I thought back to my childhood and decided to share this idea with you. Here is what you need:

Bread (just normal sandwich bread works well)
Pizza/pasta sauce
Shredded cheese (Mozzarella)
Pizza toppings (olives, pepperoni, etc)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

All you need to do is take a slice of bread, spoon a little sauce onto it, and then add you desired pizza toppings. Next, put it in your oven/toaster oven, and bake just until the cheese melts. At this point, you can leave it in longer for more golden/toasted cheese, or turn on the broiler, for just another 2-3 minutes, making sure to watch it closely.

This is a particularly great snack when you have multiple kids that are picky about what they want on their pizza.

Activity: Dance/Move like animals

One of my favorite things to do with kids that are just too wiggly and don't want to settle down, is actually to keep them moving, but with direction. Instead of letting them just run around wild, I have them move like animal. This is a great idea to tire them out quickly, as they will be moving fast, and up and down a lot. Here are some example to get you thinking:

Hop like bunnies
Run like cheetahs (really fast)
Crawl and bark/meow like dogs/cats
Waddle like penguins
Fly like birds
Swim like fish
Walk like an elephant (use your arm to create a long nose)
Crawl and oink like a pig

The only limits in this game are what you can come up with. I have no idea what sound an armadillo makes, so I'm not going to suggest it. As the kids get older, you can have them swim like whales, but also make whale sounds (think finding Nemo) or just watch the following video.

This is sure to bring lots of giggles. Have you tried anything like this? What's you favorite animal to imitate?

Activity: Toilet paper tube slide

In our bedroom, I have a stack of empty toilet paper tubes that previous had no purpose. Well now they have a purpose! I'm going to have my husband Jacob design and build a toilet paper tube slide that the kids can drop ping pong balls (or anything smaller than that) into it, and watch them come down at the bottom. It's kind of like a  water slide, but with toilet paper tubes, indoor, and no water.
And if you have a child that really loves to build things (future engineer?), then they can help too!

Here's how it works:

Items needed:
Toilet paper tubes (or paper towel/wrapping paper tubes)
Tape (something sturdy like duct tape)
Any other decorating materials (colored paper, stickers, etc.)
Ping Pong Balls


Figure out if you want an "open" tube where the kids can watch the ball the whole time, or a closed tube, where they will hear it rattling around. You will also need to figure out if you want it to have any twists or turns. Then begin taping it together, remembering that it will need to be taped to the fridge or something where the "top" of the tube slide starts. After it is decorated and assembled, you can then begin the fun by putting things down it. Be aware that if it is an open tube, it will be MUCH easier to keep things from getting stuck inside, whereas a closed tube you might have to take apart or put a stick or cooking utensil down it to dislodge objects.

Here is another idea for a "style"

Have you done anything like this with your kids? How did it go? Do you have any pictures?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Activity: When you are at the Grocery Store

I am happy to say that this activity can go MANY different ways for MANY different ages. You can teach kids anything from colors (apples are red, grapes are purple, etc), organization (milk go here, flour goes there...), meal planning (I want to make spaghetti - do I have what I need?) and even as far as cost analysis (How do I get the best value for my money? How can I stay on budget?). I studied many aspects of food and budgeting in college and actually still use a lot of my old assignments in real life. With all this in mind, let me share with you some fun ideas of things that I have done in the store with kids.

I have asked them to...

Find things that are a certain color
Find a specific food (cucumbers, apples, etc. - Mia is learning how to do this).
Count how many jars of peanut butter they see
Help me pick out the biggest (or smallest, prettiest, etc.) piece of food
If you have $1.00 and a donut costs $0.50, can you afford it? Will you have any money left over?
I have $10.00 and need to get these 4 things. Can you find the best price?

 There are lots of  other things that you can do, and as always, the questions you ask will depend on the age and understanding of the child. In our family, I want to have Mia involved in all sorts of things, from cooking, to planning, to shopping, and even storing food (canning, drying, freezing, etc.). I'm hoping that by the time she is 10, she can at least make Spaghetti all by herself (she may need help lifting the pot full of water and noodles), and by the time she's 14 (if not earlier) I want her to be able to plan a week long menu of dinners, and make a grocery list. When she's 16, I want her to understand how to find the best value at the grocery store. This kind of knowledge will help her a lot in college, as well as in her adult life. She will be able to use these skills as well as her budgeting skills to be able to save money and live well below her means.

Have any of you done something like this? At what age did you start? What activities or concepts with you focus on?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Make it yourself: Table Top Easel

Photo courtesy of:

Instead of buying an easel at the store for more money than you would like, why not make your own? Here's how:

Find a sturdy box and cut out one entire side. Tape the remaining 3 sides together, forming a triangle. It might help if you then taped the box on it's side to the table so it doesn't slid around. Then you just need to tape paper to the front of it for the child to draw/paint on.

Activity: A New Kind of Old McDonald

I found a really cute idea the other day to change the words of Old McDonald. You can use it for a lot of topics too. Here are some examples:

Old McDonald had a cold, EIEIO, and with his cold he had a cough, EIEIO.... etc.
Old McDonald had a house....
...Pet store...
...Candy store...

So basically, you just sing Old McDonald, but you change the words depending on what you want to sing about. Easy as that! My husband and I like to talk about the family. Here's how we do it....

Old McDonald had a family, E-I-E-I-O
And in that family he had a mommy, E-I-E-I-O
With an I love you, and an I love you,
Here an I, there an I, everywhere an I love you!
Old McDonald had a family, E-I-E-I-O.

As you can see, you can really change the words many different ways. Have you ever tried anything like this? What words, topics, or phrases did you use?

Activity: Imaginary friend

Let you child create imaginary creatures using paper cups and art supplies. Here's how it works:

Photo courtesy of:
Cut out a small circle on the side of the cup (big enough for your finger to fit partially through (to make a nose)). Then let the child draw on the eyes, ears, hair, mouth, etc. Now you can turn the cup into a puppet by putting your finger through the hole for the nose, and making it talk. For older kids, you could have them make the same creatures, but then have them help the little kids put on a puppet show. As far as decorating materials go, you can use pens, markers, crayons, colored pencils, glitter, yarn (for the hair), pipe cleaners (hair or arms, legs, etc). Pretty much the sky is the limit. If you have extra scraps of fabric, you can let the kids make clothes. But of course, the difficulty of the activity will be based on the child's age and understanding.
This photo courtesy of:

Have you ever created imaginary creatures using sups? Something else?

Photo courtesy of:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Activity: Indoor Treasure Hunt

Let's say that you want to make cookies on a rainy day, but you also need an activity to keep the kids entertained. So how about you put both together? Here's what to do....

Send the kids on a treasure hunt for the items that you need for the cookies. Have them find the cookie sheets, chocolate chips, flour, etc. You can either keep them in their normal places, or put them in new places for an even longer treasure hunt. If you put them in interesting new places, give your kids clues for them to follow. For example, if the chocolate chips are under the pillow in the bedroom, give them a clue like "where I rest my head when I'm tired". Then they will run to the bedroom and find it. Of course the clues can be easier or more complex as the child's age suggests.

For younger children, perhaps pictures would be better than written out clues. I also don't think it would be a good idea to hide the eggs and butter/oil for the cookies, just in case you can't find them again or forget about them.

Have any of you tried something like this? What did you have the child search for?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Activity: Charades

I happen to love Charades. I've played it as a kid, at birthday parties, college parties, etc., and I still love it. And the best part about it, is that it is very adaptable to various age groups and situations. All you need to do is have a list of things that the kids can act out. I like putting the items on slips of paper, so that the kids can draw one out of a hat. Here are some categories that might work well for kids:

Animals (farm, circus, jungle, etc.)
Things in Nature (leaves, trees, raindrops, etc)
People (pretend to be each other)
Action words (jump, run, skip, roll, etc.)
Vehicles (Car, train, airplane, etc.)
Body Parts (just have them point to their body parts and have people guess)
Facial Expressions (happy, sad, mad, bored, etc.)

There are of course many other categories that you can come up with. And you may need to allow kids to make noise, instead of remaining silent like we do as adults.

Mia, as an almost two year old would do really well at pointing to body parts, but she's not quite ready for the other categories. So as you plan the game, make sure that the options are appropriate for the age group.

Have you tried this with your kids? What words or categories did you use?

Activity: Hot or Cold

This is a super easy game that I am sure many of us played when we were younger. Here's what to do in case you aren't familiar with it.

Take an object and hide it, when the "Seeker" closes their eyes or leaves the room. When they open their eyes, have them search for the object, while you tell them if the are "hot", "warm", or "cold". Hot means that you are very close to the object, warm means you are getting closer, and cold me that you are not close to it. Make sure that you take turns and allow the kids the change to give the directions as well.

Have you played this game? How did it work with different ages?

Snack Time: Peanut Butter Energy Balls

[This post and recipe courtesy of For more information on this website and it's authors, please visit this link].

Here's an awesome recipe for peanut butter energy balls! Kids love it because of the peanut butter and cookie like taste. Parent's love it because of the nutritious elements. Sounds like a good combination to me!

Photo taken from

No-Bake Energy Bites

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Yield: About 3 dozen



Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (Mine were about 1" in diameter.) Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Makes about 20-25 balls.

Activity: A new kind of hide and seek

Hide and seek is always fun for kids, but as an adult, I either get bored quickly, or worry that the kids are going to hide somewhere crazy or dangerous, and then fall asleep and I won't know where to find them. Needless to say that I was thrilled when I heard about a "NEW kind of hide and seek". Here's how it works:

You take an object (toy car, doll, boat, action figure, etc). and while the person who is "it" closes their eyes, you hide it somewhere in the room. (This next part of the description comes straight from the website

"Give simple but very specific directions to guide your child in finding the object. A typical game might include: "Walk three steps forward." "Turn toward the window." "Walk five steps forward." "Walk two more steps forward." Or throw in some colors, like "look next to something red." At first, allow the child to complete a direction before giving them another one."

You can of course make the direction easier, or more complex depending on the age and understanding of the child. And then after the child has found the object a few times, allow them to hide it and you to seek it!

We tried this today with Mia and her cousins. It was a lot of fun for her 5 year old cousin Brooklyn, although Mia and Jenna didn't quite understand what was going on. So this activity would probably be better for kids 2 1/2 and up. But of course, that's just a generalization.

Have any of you tried this activity or one similar to it? How did it go?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snack Time: Easy Home Made Ice Cream

[This idea and recipe is courtesy of "365 Games Toddlers Play: Creative Time To Imagine, Grow and Learn" by Sheila Ellison].

Ingredients and Materials
5 c. crushed ice
3 T. salt
1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Gallon-sized sealable plastic bag
1 Quart-sized sealable plastic bag
1 T sugar

Put the ice into the large plastic bag and sprinkle it with salt. Add the milk, sugar, and vanilla into the small plastic bag. Seal it well, removing as much air as possible. Place the small bag into the large ice-filled bag, making sure it is completely surrounded by ice. Seal the large bag and shake vigorously, or better yet, go outside with it and play "catch", but only throw it a few feet or the bags might get holes in them (You could of course do this in the house, but I would suggest only on hard floors in case it does break open). After about 5 minutes, take the small bag from the ice, open it, and then add any addition flavors (mint, chocolate chips, strawberries, etc.). Mix in the extra flavors and then get ready to eat!

Sheila Ellison suggests the following flavors and measurements:
Strawberry jam (1 Tbsp)
Chocolate Syrup (1 Tbsp)

I think that this would be a great activity on super hot days, or even cold days. Any day to eat ice cream is a good day to me. And if you have enough bags and other supplies, then each child/adult could make their desired flavor.

Activity: Matching Counting, and Colors

My friend Tara was recently able to get two infants down for a nap at the same time, thus allowing her one-on-one time with her 3 year old (Emma). Together, they got out craft box to do some, as she puts it, "big girl" stuff. When I saw this activity on her blog, I saw immediately how awesome it was, and decided that it needed to be shared. I asked her and she officially said that I could copy her post and share it with you all. Here's what Tara says:

I cut up some pipe cleaners so they were all different lengths. Then I traced them onto a piece of paper and numbered each one. Emma matched each stick to the correct one on the paper.

 After she matched them up, I taped down the top and got out the beads.

I helped Emma count the correct number of beads for each pipe cleaner. She then strung the beads onto them.

She loves to sort and match colors, so when she had finished stringing on the beads, we took them off and she sorted them into little bowls.

If you don't have pipe cleaner, you could use string, or straws might be thin enough to string the beads on as well. The advantage of pipe cleaner is the beads stay where they are placed instead of falling off. Makes it easier and less frustrating for those little hands and fingers.

Next time we do this, I will probably put down a cookie sheet first. Not too many beads fell off the table, but it would have kept them from rolling so far.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Helping: Helping in the Kitchen

I love to cook, bake, decorate, create, and anything else you can think of in the kitchen (except for cleaning up. I don't think that I will ever enjoy that). Happily, we noticed early on that Mia was always wanting to know what was going on in the kitchen. Quickly, it became too much to hold her and try to prepare food, especially when trying to cut up vegetables or raw meat. So this past Christmas, we thought that we would get her her own little pretend food, pots and pans, and a little chef outfit. Oh, and a shopping cart to carry it all. Now when we cook, she can "cook" with us, but not be in our arms. Of course, this concept only worked for a few weeks, and we had to think of something else.

I thought that maybe if she could see what we were doing while sitting in a chair, then perhaps that would help. I was on the right track, except for the fact that I was using a sharp knife and Mia has small and curious fingers. But then I realized that I still had cilantro leaves that needed to be pulled off the stems. I gave some of the leaves with stems to Mia, and then showed her how to pull off the leaves. This was perfect! She understood it right away and had lots of fun. She was engaged in her task, and I was able to do everything else I needed without worrying about where her fingers were.

Now of course when you do this with your own children, you will need to decide what they can do based on age and skill. For example, I wouldn't give Mia a knife since she's not even two years old yet. But I can give her tasks like pulling grapes off the stems, tearing lettuce leaves for a salad, or adding pepperoni to the pizza. Mia is also learning to put plates and forks on the table. Have you tried something like this with your own children? How old are they and what task did you give them?

Snack Time: Green Smoothie

Sometimes it can be really hard to get your kids to eat...well...anything healthy. Mia is usually a good eat, but there are still things that she won't touch. Like milk, if it's not in a bottle, or spinach or any other type of leafy green. So to help out myself and others with this all too often battle of nutrition with out kids, my friend Susie has shared with us her recipe for Green Smoothies!

This is Susie's daughter Emily, drinking her green smoothie!
2 cups spinach, rinsed
Half avocado
1/2 c grapes (any color)
1/2 c strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 frozen banana
1 cup of milk (can substitute almond milk, rice milk, etc)

Then just put it all in a blender and blend. Easy as that! My mom made a similar drink when we were younger and we loved it when she added pineapple to it. Just some "food" for thought....

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Activity: Up Down Up!

Let's face it. Kids young and old like Winnie the Pooh (myself included). Who can forget the cute "Little Black Rain Cloud" song, or better still Winnie the Pooh's "stoutness exercises"? If you are unfamiliar with these songs, take a look at these.

"I'm just a little black rain cloud"

"Stoutness Exercise (Up, Down, Up!)"

Now seeing as I am currently overweight, I figure that any way I can make exercise fun for me as well as my daughter is a good idea. So lately, Mia and I have been turning on "Toddler" radio stations using Pandora and then we begin dancing, twirling, jumping, skipping, running, kicking, and just about every other movement you can think of. It helps her to get out her wiggles before bedtime (always a good thing), gets her exercising, helps her learn to move her body and also work on her balance and coordination skills. Not to mention that it's more fun for me to exercise with her than attempt to run in 30 degree weather (I'm not a runner by any means, but I do walk in 5k's occasionally).

If only exercising was as perfectly easy for people as it is for Winnie the Pooh. But for now, I think that 20-30 minutes a day (sometimes we break it up in to 10-15 minute chunks) is a great start! Especially if you can't go outdoors because it's too cold or too hot.

What kinds of exercise activities to you do with your kids when stuck indoors? Do you have any outdoor activities that can easily be transferred inside?

Friday, January 24, 2014

TV Time

In case anyone was wondering, I'm not completely anti-TV/media. I just want my kids to grow up with balance, or rather lopsided balance. And by that I mean, some TV, but mostly physical activity play, rather than sitting at the computer or in front of the TV all day. I myself don't remember watching all that much TV before I was 10. My siblings and I spent our time reading books, playing games, and running around outside. After a visit to the library (Wednesday is library day!),  I came across a super cute idea to give your kids some TV time, but not to much. This idea comes courtesy of 365 Games Toddlers Play: Creative Time to Imagine, Grow and Learn, by Sheila Ellison.

Recommended age group: 30 months and up

* Give your child daily tickets that she can turn in to you if she wants to watch a show. Each ticket is worth 30 minutes, but you get to decide how many total tickets she gets each day. (Mia's not quite old enough to understand this concept yet, but I plan to do it the future. Right now, we watch shows on Netflix when mommy isn't feeling good, or she's working on something like the bills, or taxes, and needs to have limited distractions. Otherwise I try to keep it off.).

* Tape a piece of your child's artwork over the TV when it's not in use. That way you will stop and think before turning on the TV again.

*Sit down with your child and watch the shows with them. That way you can talk about what is being learned, and then practice the words, letters, shapes, etc. that they saw on the show that day. (This is also a good concept for older kids, especially that sensitive pre-teen age when they want to watch teenage oriented shows, but aren't necessarily mature enough. My mom and I used to watch Gilmore Girls together with my sister.  We still love it to this day and talk about it all the time (except for the "Logan Huntsburger" time period. Not a fan.).

So anyway, those are just some ideas courtesy of Sheila Ellison (learn more about Sheila by clicking here), with my side notes of course. I hope that this helps you and your family. Do you have any other ideas about TV time?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Activity: Beads and Cups and Things

Let's face it. Kids like to make noise! As parents, we hope that the noise won't be too loud or annoying. Fortunately this activity is neither loud nor annoying, which is always an A+ in my book! We started by getting out Mia's stacking cups (or any other cups or buckets that you would like to use). We also got out her bead necklaces and some little paper cups (the kind kids use in the bathroom). And then we just let Mia be creative! Here's what to do:

Items Needed:
Stacking cups or buckets
Paper or plastic cups
Beads (you could also use corn, rice, cereal, etc. but make sure that you stay at the kitchen table or outside for that).
Remember to look for my final review at the bottom of the post!
Stacking cups? Check!

Sit on the floor? Check!

Beads? Check!

Paper cups? Check!

One last smile before "intensive" creative thinking? Check!

Let the games begin!

Mia had a lot of fun with this activity. I think she continued to play with it for more than 30 minutes, which for a toddler is super impressive. I think she actually loved the paper cups the most though. As for the older kids, I am not sure if they would enjoy the same setup as Mia had, so here are some other ideas.

1. Get a package of "pompoms" (those little puffy fluffy balls you can find at a craft store). Any size will be fine. Then you can have the child practice their color knowledge by having them place the correct pompom color in the correct cup. Perhaps you could draw on the up so that they know what color is expected. Or you could write the words if the child is learning how to read.

2. Have older children try stacking a castle of cups using the paper cups. See how high they can stack things. Or if you have a TON of cups, see how high they can make a tower before it falls over.

That's all that I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure that you can come up with other ideas too. Would you care to share?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Silliness: Mustache Mania!

There are plenty of things that you can find at the dollar store to keep you entertained. Some of them are great and others not so great. Fake mustaches fall among the GREATS! And you can use the mustaches for all sorts of activities! Pretend that you are a notorious bad guy going to rob a bank, and let your child save the day. Or add them to your birthday party theme along with other dress up clothes. Or have a contest to see who can be the most creative with their mustache placement. The possibly activities are endless. Here's what we did....

Items Needed:
Dollar Store fake mustaches (I have seen the same ones at ToysRUs and I think even Walmart)
They came in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Here is Mia before we started playing.

Mia was a little nervous about having things on her face, so mommy went first.

If I remember correctly, I was actually holding Mia's hands down in order to take this picture. She kept trying to pull off the mustache.

Next it was Daddy's turn.


This is my attempt to raise a single eyebrow. Although it felt like it worked, it obviously didn't.

We put a mustache on Kitty to help Mia enjoy mustache time, but not force her to wear them.

Here's Papa!

Kitty up close!

Momo's turn!

I don't even know what face I was trying to make here.

Winnie the Pooh! My, how you have aged!

Alright, so I admit that I got this packet of mustaches for Mia, but when all was said and done, I had WAY more fun than anyone else. It's probably evident based on on the fact that there are more pictures of me in mustache glory, rather than other people.